[Marxism] Debate on Welsh, Scottish, English and Irish republicanism

James Daly james.irldaly at ntlworld.com
Tue Jun 22 04:49:34 MDT 2004


Debate on Welsh, Scottish, English and Irish republicanism

********************************

James Daly introduces a debate (to which he did not contribute) on
Welsh, Scottish, English and Irish republicanism and socialist
republicanism:

This debate began as a discussion in

Seven_Stars_Republican_Socialist_News at yahoogroups.com

of the UK Independence Party (UKIP)'s performance in the British
European elections, [Subject: UK Independence Party Vote by Nation
(England, Wales, Scotland)].

It continued as a discussion of the relation between the constituent
parts of Britain and Ireland and a debate on the political aim of the
breakup of the United Kingdom and the goal of English Scottish and
Welsh socialist republics

Unfortunately I cannot find the archives, so I have had to edit it
"imaginatively", but the following is, I hope, the main gist of the
debate, followed by a contribution from Michael Keaney, Moderator of
A-list. I apologise if I have misrepresented any contributor's
position -- I do not claim historical scholarship.


******************

Message 1. --??

[From New Zealand Marxist Philip Ferguson, editor of NZ *Revolution*,
who spent ten years in Dublin around the Eighties and early Nineties,
joining in the Irish struggle as a member of Sinn Fein. He has made
invaluable contributions on many subjects to the Marxmail list.]

*****************

Message 2.

From: TJ O Conchuir [mailto:kcredbranch at yahoo.com] Sent: Thursday, 17
June 2004 10:11 p.m.

Phil: But couldn't these figures be used to argue the importance of a
united British working class, where the Scottish and Welsh workers
helped lead the English workers forward?

T.J.: If you mean the 'UK', no, but if you mean a union of all
workers, yes. As Connolly argued, it is the economy that creates an
international working class and thus the basis for socialism. Whereas
empires are usually a force that divides people along ethnic/religious
lines and a hindrance to a unified proletariat.

*********

Message: 3

>From Ciarán Ó B Date: Fri, 18 Jun 2004 15:37:46 +1200 Subject: RE: UK
Independence Party Vote by Nation

"But couldn't these figures be used to argue the importance of a
united British working class, where the Scottish and Welsh workers
helped lead the English workers forward?" Philip Ferguson

********

I think that the break-up of the United Kingdom would do more for the
English working class than keeping Scotland, Wales and Ireland within
its grip would. If you break the empire, you break the imperial
mentality which many of the English working class hold. Ciarán Ó B

*******************

Message 4.

Philip Ferguson replies:

There's not much of an empire left! More seriously, however, I cannot
see that Scotland and Wales are in the same position as Ireland. In
particular, Scotland is a pretty integral part of British imperialism
and I can't really see that it is any more oppressed than Yorkshire.
The attempts by some Scottish republicans to present Scotland as
having the same subordinate and oppressed relation to England as
Ireland has to *Britain* (not merely England) have never been very
convincing to me.

In Ireland, in order to unite the working class it is necessary to
oppose Unionism, partition and British rule because those are things
which prevent working class unity. In Britain (ie Scotland, Wales and
England), the working class is already united, and yet some people
want to break it up. I don't see the sense in that. Philip Ferguson

********************

Message: 5

Date: Thu, 17 Jun 2004 22:48:05 EDT

From: Scotlive at aol.com

Subject: Re: UK Independence Party Vote by Nation

I agree with you. The notion of a homogenous British working class
with the same interests is fallacious. Not only the English ruling
class, but also the English working class have benefitted from the
British Empire in the past and up to the present day. The employment
derived from war, from the production of munitions and defense
contracts, plus military enlistment, has put many a smile on the faces
of men and women the length and breadth of the UK mainland, smiles
which have come with Britain's continued occupation of the six
counties in the North of Ireland, to give just one example. This
serves to illustrate that in each region of the UK there exists
different objective conditions, demanding different methods of
mobilisation and struggle. By far the most advanced section of the
working class in that part of the world remains is that who've
struggled and continue to struggle against the forces of imperialism
and reaction - namely the Irish. Rather than join them in this
struggle, the English, as well as a large portion of both the Scottish
and Welsh working class, have remained apathetic at best, if not
jingoistic, succumbing to the British ruling class lie that it is a
religious war that's taking place rather than an anti-imperialist
struggle.

Connolly was visionary in his thinking, no more so than when he said:
'The struggle for national liberation and socialism cannot and must
not be separated.'

We want Britain out of Ireland and Scotland and Wales out of Britain.

Solidarity

Scotlive

***********************

Message: 6. From Peter Urban,

IRSP Foreign Affairs Officer, San Francisco,

editor of the 7 Stars Republican Socialist News

Date: Fri, 18 Jun 2004 17:54:52 -0700 (PDT)

From: <irsp at netwiz.net

Subject: RE: UK Independence Party Vote by Nation

While the matter could be debated and certainly is, the position taken
by John Maclean early in the 20th century seems to me to be still
valid today.

"Great Britain" represents an imperialist state that was forged out of
the combination of three distinct nations: England, Scotland, and
Wales. This combination was clearly not one of equals and much has
been published which supports the perspective that both Wales and
Scotland were, to varying extents, internal colonies of Britain,
though it is true that the bourgeoisie of both Wales and Scotland
gained advantages from the union of the three states.

At present, however, the task of the working class to overthrow the
British ruling class is best served by the dismantling of Great
Britain, which would help to undermine the viability of maintaining an
imperialist posture in the world today. Beyond this consideration is
the clear conservativism of the English working class relative to that
of Wales and Scotland, in part due to the increased advantages English
workers derived from British imperialism. This relative backwardness
in the formation of class consciousness, from the perspective of
Scottish and Welsh workers, is an impediment to their own liberation
as a class and accordingly their interests would be best served by a
dismantling of the British state. It is true that the interests of
English workers would be better served by the retention of the union,
but should this be the concern of Welsh and Scottish workers? How one
answers that question will largely determine how one views the
question of whether to preserve or dismantle the British state.

I, personally, agree with the perspective of Forward Wales and Cymru
Goch, as well as of the Scottish Republican Movement and the Scottish
Socialist Party, that the workers of Scotland and Wales should focus
on the tactic which best serves the revolutionary needs of their class
and should therefore seek the establishment of independent socialist
republics for Scotland and Wales. English working class activists too
might consider whether they are better off confronting a ruling class
bolstered by the continued union of the three nations or whether their
tasks might be easier to accomplish if they confronted the English
ruling class, supported by socialist republics to their north and
west.

Peter Urban

************************

Message: 7.

Date: Fri, 18 Jun 2004 18:03:22 -0700 (PDT)

From: TJ O Conchuir

<kcredbranch at yahoo.com

"I cannot see how Scotland, an integral part of British imperialism,
is an oppressed nation. It is no more disadvantaged within the British
state than a lot of counties in England. "

I wouldn't quite agree w/ the second sentence. England breaks the Act
of Union when it suits the Fatherland (eg: Poll tax). Also Scotland is
not occupied in the present day, but if there were a large republican
movement in Scotland, we could be sure England would intervene as it
did in the 1920's. Scotland has natural resources that England wants
(north sea gas) and if the Scots made a move to use their resources
for their own benefit, England would say 'No' as it did not long ago.
"Scotland ain't Ireland, and treating it as if it has some comparable
record of national oppression just doesn't seem to me to make
historical sense or political sense." That doesn't seem true from what
I know. There were the highland clearances, the suppression of
Scotland's rights and centuries-long history of border war between the
two nations. Although you're correct about their backwardness, which
is more a product of their junior partnership in the Empire, the Scots
have little love for England. All of this is that much of an argument
for the breakup of the imperial arrangement. As some Scots will tell
you, they had much more freedom and enjoyed more rights before the
Union.

**************

Message: 8.

Date: Sat, 19 Jun 2004 01:59:30 +0100

From: "Ciaran B" <chebradley at hotmail.com

From: Philip Ferguson>More seriously, however, I cannot see that
Scotland and Wales are in the same position as Ireland. In particular,
Scotland is a pretty integral part of British imperialism and I can't
really see that it is any more oppressed than Yorkshire.

******

The Scots were given a very limited form of devolution, along with the
Welsh - because New Labor realised that they aren't like Yorkshire.
There is a long history of English oppression, and Scottish resistance
and rebellion.

The Treaty of Arbroath, in 1707, which in theory dissolved the
separate nations of England and Scotland actually only got rid of
Scottish sovereignty and in return they were given what was
essentially a token representation in the English parliament.

In more recent times there have been events like the Highland
Clearances and the English reaction to Red Clydeside that prove that
Scotland is very much an oppressed nation. I've made the point before,
that the United Kingdom is for Scotland, Wales and Ireland what NAFTA
is for Mexico. Its main raison d'etre is the exploitation of their
peoples for the rich ruling class of the dominant nation. Ciarán Ó B

*****************

Message: 9.

Date: Fri, 18 Jun 2004 18:45:05 -0700

From: "j.t andrews" <bomber61 at hotmail.com

comrades,

let's be for real.great britian,the u.k.,england,or whatever you wanna
call it has only had an existance on this planet because of exploiting
someone.it's the only way it could keep it's own population quiet and
under control. now they aint got a austrailia or america to dump off
their refuse,they gotta come up with something to keep the masses
happy.that's why cradle to grave welfare,nationalized medicine,etc.
was brought in.somethin' tells me that they(the ruling class)dont
wanna dole it out anymore.

2003 is a little late to start empire building again for a country
that if it didnt have nuclear weapons couldnt handle a war with brazil
and win.in

1982 the argentinian air force with surplus u.s. planes just about did
in the "royal navy". the british are through and they know it.sooner
or later the welchy and scottish'll get tired of being their bitiches
and throw the fuckers out.the second they give up the occupied
six,it'l al come tumblin' down.they knew that back in when they gave
up the southern 26. let's be for real comrades,it's like lennin
said:"what's a revolution without firing squads?"

jeff andrews

****************************





Message 10

From: Philip Ferguson

Sent: Thursday, 17 June 2004 10:11 p.m.

Phil: But couldn't these figures be used to argue the importance of a
united British working class, where the Scottish and Welsh workers
helped lead the English workers forward?



T.J.: If you mean the 'UK', no, but if you mean a union of all
workers, yes. As Connolly argued, it is the economy that creates an
international working class and thus the basis for socialism. Whereas
empires are usually a force that divides people along ethnic/religious
lines and a hindrance to a unified proletariat.

*************



True in relation to empires and those they oppress. Ireland has
clearly been historically oppressed by Britain, and still is. Scotland
is part of that oppression of Ireland, not a victim of England.

In other words, I cannot see how Scotland, an integral part of British
imperialism, is an oppressed nation. It is no more disadvantaged
within the British state than a lot of counties in England.

Scotland only ever fought for a better deal with England, mainly for
the Scottish ruling class. And the Scottish working class have been
every bit as backward as the English working class on the issue of the
British occupation of Ireland.

Surely a more fruitful approach is to explain to *British workers as a
whole* why they should support Irish freedom. Divvying up the British
class along national, or pseudo-national, lines is more an expression
of leftist frustration.

Scotland ain't Ireland, and treating it as if it has some comparable
record of national oppression just doesn't seem to me to make
historical sense or political sense.

****************************************





Message: 11

Date: Fri, 18 Jun 2004 21:35:04 EDT

From: Scotlive at aol.com

The Scottish working class have been and are oppressed. It's just they
are not aware of it - i.e., they have no consciousness of their
oppression to the same degree as the Irish nationalist community have
of theirs. Also, the Scottish working class is split along the same
sectarian lines as the Protestant and Catholic working class in the
six counties. This sectarianism is a product of British Imperialism,
which was responsible for planting and nurturing a loyalist ascendancy
in the six counties in order to control it on their behalf.

But consider this. All throughout the Thatcher years, the Tories were
never able to make much headway in Scotland in terms of votes. She was
perceived, quite rightly, as anti-Scottish, which she demonstrated
back in 1987 by introducing the poll tax in Scotland before
implementing it throughout the rest of the island. This was in direct
contravention of the 1707 Act of Union, and constituted an attack on
the Scottish people.

The Scottish Socialist Party have attracted a lot of new members and
supporters over the past few years and now have 6 MSP's. However, much
of this influx of support has come in the shape of former members of
Militant, a pro-union faction that were kicked out of the old Labour
Party back in the late-eighties. Theire influence has changed the
emphasis away from a Scottish Socialist Republic to a more reformist,
united British working class position. I think, long term, it's a
mistake. As others have stated, the English working class will always
benefit from a British Empire as long as there is one. And there is.
Not big, but still in existence, mainly as an adjunct to the US
Empire. Smash one, we have a better chance of smashing the other.

Respectfully yours



Scotlive


*******************

Message: 12

Date: Sat, 19 Jun 2004 15:01:09 +1200

From: Philip Ferguson

"There were the highland clearances, the suppression of Scotland's
rights and centuries-long history of border war between the two
nations. Although you're correct about their backwardness, which is
more a product of their junior partnership in the Empire, the Scots
have little love for England. All of this is that much of an argument
for the breakup of the imperial arrangement. As some Scots will tell
you, they had much more freedom and enjoyed more rights before the
Union."

Weren't a lot of the clearances, upper class Scots ripping off the
clans. Marx talks in vol 1 of 'Capital' about this process, for
instance.

Marx and Engels studied the national question in Britain in great
depth. They wrote a great deal about Ireland, about how it had been
flung centuries back by British rule and the vital role the struggle
in Ireland had not only for separating and liberating Ireland but also
for breaking the British working class from their own
rulers/exploiters.

They never viewed Scotland in the same light at all.

I also think we need to be very wary of romanticised views of what
life was like for the Scots under their monarchs before the Act of
Union.

(Also, remember it was Scottish monarchs who became the monarchs of
England, not vice versa, beginning with James 1. The monarch at the
time of the Act of Union was Anne, who was also a Stuart.)

If Scotland was an oppressed nation and England was its oppressor, it
seems odd that the monarchs of the 'oppressed nation' would become the
monarchs of the oppressor nation.

I can't really imagine the English accepting Brian Boru as king of
England.

Phil

******************

Message: 13

Date: Sat, 19 Jun 2004 14:46:21 +1200

From: Philip Ferguson

Peter Urban wrote:

I, personally, agree with the perspective of Forward Wales and Cymru
Goch, as well as of the Scottish Republican Movement and the Scottish
Socialist Party, that the workers of Scotland and Wales should focus
on the tactic which best serves the revolutionary needs of their class
and should therefore seek the establishment of independent socialist
republics for Scotland and Wales. English working class activists too
might consider whether they are better off confronting a ruling class
bolstered by the continued union of the three nations or whether their
tasks might be easier to accomplish if they confronted the English
ruling class, supported by socialist republics to their north and
west.

An important problem is that breaking up Britain along the lines
suggested doesn't just weaken the English bourgeoisie, it weakens the
working class throughout Britain. Each group of workers is then left
to contend with their own ruling class, in a situation in which they
have been encouraged to think in nationalist terms and ally with their
own ruling class for separation from England.

Moreover, I haven't seen any evidence that Scottish workers are worse
off materially than English workers. All the old industrial heartlands
of Britain - in parts of Scotland, England and Wales - have suffered
mass unemployment, de-industrialisation, immiseration etc.

It is a different situation from the six counties where the
nationalist working class remains *very notably* worse off than the
unionist working class.

I also think the idea that Scottish and Welsh workers are much more
politically advanced than English workers in highly problematic. They
are only so if you consider *economistic* issues and view stuff like
voting Labour as some kind of socialist consciousness (which I
certainly don't).

If Scottish and Welsh workers were so much more advanced than English
workers, they would have marched in big numbers to get British troops
out of Ireland. That would be a better test of their level of
political consciousness than the fact that they are more inclined than
English workers to vote Labour or that they want to be ruled by Welsh
and Scottish capitalists rather than English ones (I also suspect that
the British ruling class is a unitary class and doesn't really divide
neatly along national lines, which is another reason to not favour
breaking up the British working class).

In terms of stuff like workers benefiting from arms industries and so
on, what about Scottish workers? Didn't they also benefit from the
British arms industry and didn't loads of Scots line up to occupy
Ireland from the 1600s right up to modern Scots regiments in the
British army today.

I just don't see anything progressive about Scottish nationalism, any
more than I see anything progressive about New Zealand nationalism.

Scotland is thoroughly enmeshed in the imperialist British state,
unlike Ireland which is nationally oppressed by that British
imperialist state, a national oppression which Scotland has been every
bit as much part of as England has.

Phil

******************

Message: 14

Date: Sat, 19 Jun 2004 03:43:13 -0700 (PDT)

From: <irsp at netwiz.net [Peter Urban]

Nonsense. The Scottish and Welsh bourgeoisie are nowhere near as
strong as those of England and the working class of both nations are
more militant. It is absurd to suggest Welsh and Scottish
disengagement would weaken the working class there.

This is social imperialism masquerading as socialist internationalism.
If such extra-national unity was best for all concerned, why is it
that I never hear British socialists insisting on the unity of the
European Union's working class and a surrender of national sovereignty
by all member states?

The evidence of the ways in which the infrastructure and industry of
Wales and Scotland was developed for a metropole English capitalism is
clear. Just as a small example, note that it is easy to travel from
West to East in Wales by rail or from North to South by rail in
Scotland, though the demographics of those two nations would suggest
that ties uniting the North and South of Wales and the East and West
of Scotland would have made more sense. But the rail lines were
developed to facilitate the transfer of coal from Wales and Scotland
to England and manufactured consumer goods from England into Wales and
Scotland.

Look at the average income in Wales and Scotland, both at present and
historically relative to that of England. Look at the unemployment
figures in Wales and Scotland relative to England. Look at the quality
of housing and any number of other indicators. It is clear that
development was not equal. It is also clear that England never
produced as many leaders of the CPGB as Wales did, nor does England
have anything to rival the Red Clyde of the second decade of the 20th
Century.

Peter Urban



Message: 15

Date: Sat, 19 Jun 2004 03:49:24 -0700 (PDT)

From: <irsp at netwiz.net [Peter Urban]

James I, like the rest of the Stuarts, was part of a Norman
aristocracy implanted on the entire island of Britain, so of course he
was more acceptable than was Brian Boru--he was also over six hundred
years later in history than Brian Boru, but were there a Stuart ruling
Ireland at the time of Elizabeth I's death, I have not the slightest
doubt he would have become King of England.

Be serious, the English later accepted the Dutch William of Orange and
the Hanoverian Georges as their monarch, why should they turn their
noses up at an Irish aristocrat.

That said, I now must remind list members that the purpose of this
list is not discussion, but the dissemination of news and information
concerning the Irish Republican Socialist Movement and news that we
think would be of interest to its supporters. Accordingly, we will
need to close discussion on this matter. Certainly many other options
to debate this matter and others are easily found on the Web.

Adh mor,

Peter Urban

****************

Message: 16Date: Sat, 19 Jun 2004 03:56:38 -0700 (PDT)

From: <irsp at netwiz.net

I neglected to make a key point here, as I do not want list members
left with a mistaken impression regarding the views of the IRSP. There
certainly is a danger in encouraging a romaticised view of pre-British
Wales and Scotland, as well as in encouraging Welsh and Scottish
workers to align with their own bourgeoisie around nationalism.

That is why we would never support anything advocating such views.
Note that we wrote in support of efforts to establish independent
socialist republics of Wales and Scotland, not simply independent
states. The IRSP does not believe national liberation and the struggle
for socialism can be separated by serious socialists. National
liberation has no value for revolutionary socialists if it is divorced
from the struggle to liberate the working class from the yoke of
capitalism.

Peter Urban

----------------------------------------------------------------------
--

Michael Keaney, Moderator of the A-list, replies to the debate:

Thanks to James Daly I've been kept up to speed with this debate and I
am mostly in agreement with Peter Urban. My apologies if what I have
to say covers old ground or seems off-base.

I'm with Peter Urban up to the point where he says "It is true that
the interests of English workers would be better served by the
retention of the union, but should this be the concern of Welsh and
Scottish workers?" This places the discussion on the level of
"Scotlive", who perpetuates the England as oppressor myth which is
politically very counterproductive and historically out of date, as
Phil F is correct to highlight, if for the wrong reasons.

The problem with "Scotland and Wales out of Britain" is that it hangs
out to dry an equally oppressed English working class who are thereby
presumed to identify their interests with those of the British state.
The miners' strike of 1984/5 easily puts that nonsense out to pasture.
Or should. As is pointed out, the British state is an imperialist
construct used first to "unite" three separate nations and thereafter
subjugate others, including the Irish. That the celtic fringe is less
developed than the south east core is true, but the north of England
is hardly an investment magnet. And even in the heart of London and
other English inner cities there are areas clothed in the detritus of
neglect and ghettoisation -- as we were reminded by the inner city
riots of 1981 and subsequent flare-ups throughout the 1980s. Check the
Denzel Washington film "For Queen and Country" to get an idea of what
was brewing in the concrete jungles of English cities under Thatcher.
That has hardly gone away. (Incidentally, the sizeable minorities of
Asian, African and Caribbean origin living in British cities should
not be ignored, as they often are in this kind of discussion.)

What we are dealing with here is much less a question of Scottish or
Welsh independence, or "freedom from English oppression", but
something that is much more fruitfully and inclusively regarded as the
British state question. It is the British state that divides Ireland,
clings onto colonial possessions in Argentina, Spain, etc., and
oppresses the working classes of England, Scotland, and Wales. Ever
since 1945 it has also served, to varying degrees, as a vassal of US
imperialism, a role which has recently intensified ever since the
disastrous assumption of power by Bush in January 2001.

Forget what he wrote about Northern Ireland, but Tom Nairn has written
some good critique of the British state, inasmuch as he has diagnosed
its antediluvian and terminal condition, as it goes in ever-decreasing
cycles of steady decline, crisis, superficially spectacular renewal,
steady decline, etc. The current malaise afflicting Blair et al. bears
a remarkable similarity to that which afflicted Thatcher's last
days -- it is only the lack of a plausible alternative that keeps the
Labour Party as the party of the state. That will change once a
suitably charismatic leader emerges from the Conservatives or even
LibDems (who could merge with that segment of the Labour Party
fashioned in Blair's image and with no linkage whatsoever to the
labour movement that remains a significant base for what is otherwise
the current state party). It can be postponed if Blair is deposed and
a suitably charismatic leader emerges from within the Labour Party
itself, promising renewal whilst delivering safe continuity. Peter
Hain is my pick for this role. But this cycle of pick me up, stagger
along, collapse could not be repeated so endlessly were it not for the
infusion of US support that props up this pre-jurassic repressive
apparatus. In return for prostration before US imperial will, Britain
gets to play at soldiers, thereby bolstering whatever nationalist
justification for its continued existence can be wrung out of the
populace at the expense of the latter's true interests. Meanwhile the
ruling class grovels, bows and scrapes, thankful for whatever crumbs
are thrown its way.

A significant section of that ruling class has been fed up with this
state of affairs for decades, and has grown sufficiently to challenge
US hegemony by driving forward UK participation and integration within
the European Union. During the Cold War this was broadly in line with
US anti-Soviet prerogatives, although it also gave the US more
leverage against the less obedient French and economic rival Germans.
The 1990s were the transition years for US foreign policy, as
adjustment to the lack of a clear and present danger proved difficult.
Meanwhile Britain was saddled with a government led by pro-Europeans
but immobilised by a racist europhobic political base still believing
in empire. Thus Blair's landslide victory in 1997 was a key moment in
the political realignment of Britain, since it was now freer (note the
comparative) to pursue the ultimate goal of European integration,
thereby getting out from under US hegemony, which, as a reading of
Michael Hudson's "Super Imperialism" will repeatedly and unmistakably
reveal, is achieved primarily via financial screws, most particularly
through the retention of an "independent" and "sovereign" currency,
sterling. Blair's schmoozing with Clinton (who disliked Major because
he sanctioned Conservative Party strategists assisting George Bush's
election campaign in 1992) enabled the British government to play a
delicate balancing game which it counted on being able to pull off
with the election of Al Gore in 2000. The appointment of Bush spoiled
everything, and ever since Blair has been running frantically to stand
still in order to preserve what little autonomy the British state is
allowed to enjoy by a much more assertive and unilateralist US
administration which, whatever its failings, have simultaneously
transformed irrevocably the international environment, thus making it
much harder for the British state to achieve its European goals,
whilst making it even more essential that these goals are achieved.

And while independent socialist republics of Scotland, Wales, and
England would be nice, the British state would be the least of our
worries if we were ever to come remotely close to achieving them. We
have to face up to the realities of US imperialist hegemony and its
likely transcendence of any fracture of Britain into separate
socialist republics. Reuniting Ireland will look simple by comparison.
In this respect I sympathise with Phil F's exasperation at what
appears to be the utopianism of fools (Scottish independence and damn
the rest), indulged at the expense of the much more achievable Irish
reunification. But Phil is wrong to dismiss the legitimacy of Scottish
claims to independence *from Britain* because Scots have been
historically complicit in British imperialist endeavours. That would
be like telling the Georgians that they have no right to independence
because Stalin, a Georgian, led the USSR. It is also precisely the
argument of British tory historians like Michael Fry, whose book and
recent BBC tv series (in conjunction with other media output from
Simon Schama and Niall Ferguson) are aimed squarely at perpetuating
both Britain and the idea of empire as a legitimate, respectable, and
even honourable endeavour, whilst consigning the idea of Scottish
independence to the dustbin of history.

Very briefly, my own views of what is to be done are as follows:

1. Work for the weakening of the British state. In practical terms
this means

a) supporting eurozone membership as opposed to retention of sterling.
b) consolidating and enhancing wherever possible the devolved powers
of the Scottish parliament and Welsh assembly. c) continuing the
struggle against partition in Ireland d) supporting ongoing labour
struggles, as in the current firefighters' dispute e) encouraging the
separation of trade unions from the Labour Party

2. Work for the strengthening of the British working classes. In
practical terms this means (in addition to the above)

a) continuing the construction of grassroots movements for greater
autonomy/independence within Scotland and Wales

b) linking these movements unequivocally with the struggle for a
united Ireland

c) building links with working class movements within the European
Union and formulating Europe-wide analyses and strategies that are
fully mindful of the global context in which these are being framed,
i.e, cognisant of US hegemony and its likely responses to perceived
threats to its interests d) building upon the evident frustration and
mistrust of both British and European political leaders by offering,
instead of the xenophobia and racism of the eurosceptic media
(themselves instruments of US interests), a vision of a people's
Europe coupled with concrete steps that would go some way to achieving
this (see above). For instance, separating the idea of Europe from the
reality of a European Commission utterly in thrall to neoliberal
economics, thanks largely to the efforts of the European Round Table
of Industrialists, and now the European Financial Services Roundtable.
We can and should be pro-European whilst being unflinching in our
criticisms of Commission directives, policies, functions, etc.

e) acknowledging the legitimate and even attractive (electorally
speaking) political platforms of the green movement and address these
squarely as issues of direct relevance to ordinary people, and not the
preserve of the "middle classes"

f) acknowledging the attacks being made upon women daily by a "popular
culture" increasingly devoted to their sexualisation and
objectification as part of an evolving social structure of
accumulation that is relentless in its commodification of both things
and people, thereby incorporating "feminist" (objectively socialist)
analysis and strategy

g) being under absolutely no illusion that this is an "easy way out",
or that North Sea oil will somehow make things more tolerable (a very
Scottish illusion). The oil, apart from having been a curse, is now
running out and cannot be relied upon to turn an independent Scotland
or anything else into Norway, mark 2.

h) perhaps the most difficult but certainly the most essential
component, building an anti-imperialist consciousness within the
English working class that recognises British oppression of e.g.
Ireland AND England, and everyone else. This can only be achieved with
a vision of an independent England in partnership with an independent
Wales and Scotland, and supportive of a socialist Ireland and more
generally a people's Europe.

This is just for starters, and is of course to be subjected to
criticism, revision, rejection, etc. But getting out of a 19th century
mindset would certainly help us begin to grapple with issues that are
global in their import and which bear very heavily upon the concrete
circumstances that are being addressed in this exchange.

Michael Keaney

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